Features

Creating beauty

"Creating beauty" Continued...

Issue: "Wealth and poverty," March 14, 2009

The designers choose the models carefully-their body type, their look-and teach them how to walk and what expression to use. (At the Mackage show in Bryant Park, the models so closely resembled each other they looked like the same person.) "And then they bring in the hair and the makeup and then all these things come together and then looking at this stuff-the time they put into this, all this work, it qualifies for the price they put on it," he said. You can feel the quality of high-end couture right on your skin, right down to the stitching, he said: "It feels really good. It feels really good."

Barbero said Christians can have value in the fashion industry because they can make clothing that reflects God's view of humanity. She worked as a model from the age of 15 and stopped at age 20, coming out of a life where she emptied her body and filled it with drugs. She said "something happens" when you discover God as the true source of love and identity: "You don't need to show skin like that, you don't need to expose yourself. Who you are emanates from you, with a turtleneck on and fully covered." If Christian designers can reflect "God's heart for people's identity" in their designs, people will feel the transformation: "I want to see people really connecting with their true identity through clothing and feeling really whole-not exposed, not 'less than' but 'more than' and over and above, really excellent."

But the Christian should achieve a balance between appreciation for beauty and consumption, says Liesl Gibson. A slender woman with short, dark hair, she works in the hipster-populated part of Brooklyn, from a studio where big windows open to the light and shelves hold boxes of sewing patterns with rosy-cheeked paper dolls on the front. She worked for Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger before setting off on her own to start Oliver + S, a company that designs clothing patterns for kids.

Greed, both she and Barbero say, spurred the recession. Said Gibson, "I think part of the reason we're in this problem in the first place is that we did too much shopping," and buying more blue jeans won't solve our problems.

Still, Gibson argues, a responsible consumer buys better quality in fewer quantities: "Are you filling shopping bags at Old Navy and wearing it for a season and just tossing it or donating it? I don't think that's any more responsible than buying high-end fashion and just massively consuming it. . . . If you can afford a Prada dress, perhaps you buy a Prada dress instead of five or six dresses at Target."

So to those New York women hiding their Hermes scarves in unmarked bags, Maxidus says, "You need to shop! Be bold and show the bags." And Barbero says Christian believers especially need to "continue walking in the faith that there is an upturn coming. It's not going to be forever down. It will come up again."

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